Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD)

Minuteman III test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1983. The missile carried a test re-entry vehicle that headed for a target area in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Photo: US Air Force

Northrop Grumman served as SE/TD contractor for Thor, an intermediate range ballistic missile using liquid-propellant rockets. Thor missiles went on operational alert in June 1959. Photo: US Air Force

Under the IPIC contract, Northrop Grumman managed the propulsion replacement program, which extends the life and maintains the performance of missiles by replacing the old solid propellant boosters. Photo: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman provided overall technical and managerial direction for Titan II, which had a longer range, heavier payload capacity than Titan I. Titan II went on operational alert in June 1963. Photo: USAF

Silo launch of early Minuteman I, the Air Force’s first solid-propellant ICBM. Northrop Grumman conducted studies of missile sizing, weight and performance characteristics that helped define Minuteman I requirements. Photo: USAF

Warehouse holds missile propulsion stages. Northrop Grumman served as the ICBM Prime Integration Contract (IPCI) from 1998-2016 and managed a team of more than 30 subcontractors to execute over 1,200 concurrent contract line items. photo: NG

Artist’s concept of Single Reentry Vehicle (SRV). Northrop Grumman oversaw the modification to Minuteman III re-entry vehicles to meet START II treaty requirements. Credit: Northrop Grumman

Air Force Global Strike Command regularly conducts test launches to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. Northrop Grumman provides ground subsystems support under a contract awarded in 2015. Photo: USAF


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The nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System (ICBM) has protected the nation against the possibility of nuclear attack by adversaries for six decades. Located on United States Air Force bases, missiles such as Atlas, Titan, Peacekeeper and Minuteman I, II and III have maintained a constant state of readiness as the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad.

General Bernard Schriever and TRW co-founder Simon Ramo shake hands following award of contract award to TRW to oversee the U.S. Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program in 1954.

The complex system has been updated and enhanced over the years, but is aging and due for replacement. That replacement is the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), a follow-on system designed to incorporate emerging strategic missile technologies to increase performance, security, nuclear safety and surety while reducing life cycle costs and modernizing the infrastructure. GBSD represents a recapitalization of the full weapons system.

Northrop Grumman is ideally suited to design this system. In 1954, TRW, now part of Northrop Grumman, was awarded a contract to provide system engineering and technical direction to the USAF. The company has been a trusted partner and integrator on the ICBM system ever since then.

Northrop Grumman is bringing its renowned system engineering skills, as well as its expertise in flight systems, launch systems, and command and control systems to GBSD. And the result will be a solution that enables GBSD to penetrate the toughest threat environments while providing USAF with a modern, upgradable and more capable system through 2075.